The leading manufacturer of passenger jets condemned Britain’s handling of Brexit as a “disgrace” and warned that it could be forced to pull its operations out of the country as a result.
The comments were welcomed by the country’s business minister as a wake-up call to his own government. Richard Harrington endorsed a video posted by Airbus, adding the prime minister Theresa May could sack him if she found the views unpalatable.
Aerospace giant Airbus sparked calls for the British government to take a no-deal Brexit off the table after it warned against the “devastating” effects of a messy breakup with the EU.
In a video message, the company’s chief, Tom Enders, said the European airspace group may be forced to relocate its operations out of Britain should the country crash out of the bloc without a deal.
“If there is a no-deal Brexit, we at Airbus will have to make potentially very harmful decisions for the UK,” Mr Enders said.
Britain has made a number of important contributions to the history of aircraft and fostered greater integration of this industry in Europe, the CEO noted.
But history alone will not be enough to keep the company in the country after March 29th if it does not reach an agreement.
“Please don’t listen to the Brexiteers’ madness which asserts that, because we have huge plants here, we will not move and we will always be here. They are wrong,” he said.
Airbus, based in Toulouse, France, directly employs 14,000 people in Britain and supports another 110,000.
Following Mr Enders’ warnings, pressure begun mounting on Prime Minister Theresa May to take a no-deal Brexit off the table.
Layla Moran, Lib Dem MP, said: “Today Airbus added to the growing list of companies showing real fears about Brexit and Britain’s status as a place for business.
“We can’t go on with companies like Ford, Jaguar, Panasonic and Sony leaving the country."
Darren Jones – an MP for the Labour party, which opposes Mrs May’s Conservative party – said on social media that the Airbus CEO has spoken with “devastating honesty” of the on the risks of Brexit and called the government’s position a “disgrace.”
Another Labour MP, David Lammy, called Brexit a “project of self-harm” and said that nothing could express that better than the prospect of Airbus relocating outside of Britain.
A group of former Leave voters who have changed their minds since the 2016 referendum cited Mr Enders’ words as evidence that the Leave campaign had been misleading.
“Did you vote leave on promise of ‘no downsides, only considerable upsides’ of brexit?” the group tweeted from its account, @RemainerNow. “It’s ok to change your mind.”
The company has production sites in Filton, in the southwest of England, and in Wales, where it manufactures wings for its range of commercial aircraft.
Welsh Labour Assembly Member for Delyn, Hannah Blythyn, warned that Airbus employs thousands of people in the community and that a no-deal Brexit could put their financial security at risk. “Time for @theresa_may to take a No Deal Brexit off the table,” she tweeted.
Automakers, drug companies and retailers have also issued stark warnings while a number of financial-services firms have already started relocating to the continent.
Motor company Ford, which employs about 13,000 people in the UK, also said it already outlined plans for a wide-ranging restructuring of its operations in Europe and that a no-deal departure would severely impact on the company’s profits for the first nine months after Brexit.
Japanese tech company Sony also announced this week it would move its headquarters frm the UK to The Netherlands, but won’t shift personnel and operations.
Mr Ender’s intervention comes as the UK Parliament prepares to vote on Mrs May’s Plan B after a Brexit deal was voted down on January 15 by a large majority.
Mrs May intends to ask Brussels for further concessions on the backstop agreement with Norther Ireland and then get MPs to vote on the revised deal.